There is no den in the wide world to hide a rogue. Commit a crime and the earth is made of glass. Commit a crime, and it seems as if a coat of snow fell on the ground, such as reveals in the woods the track of every partridge, and fox, and squirrel. ―Ralph Waldo Emerson

Consider how often any talk of karma goes unchallenged in Western society, even among supposedly anti-religious, fundamentalist atheists. Compare that with the apoplectic reactions you get when you say, “Thank God!” at the abeyance of some erstwhile imminent and horrible turn of events.

Cutting to the point, there’s no such a thing as karma. No one believes in it, including those Westerners who say they believe in it. If they did, they wouldn’t complain when they experience pain or inconvenience. According to karmic theory, whatever happens to an individual is what he deserves. A person who truly believes in karma wouldn’t complain about anything in life. They also wouldn’t celebrate anything ― they would just accept everything that came their way with grim aplomb.

When a child gets a wrong answer on a math test, is this karma or merely a result of his inability to understand the material? How about the late night he spent assisting his elderly and infirmed mother? Or perhaps his illicit, late night underaged drinking with his friends? Karma doesn’t really give answers ― only misdirection and obfuscation. Let’s consider the main arguments against karma here:

1. Karma is essentially a fatalistic and deterministic philosophy. It neither accepts questions nor provides answers but merely urges acceptance. It teaches that one can’t escape a mechanistic universe. It’s essentially a passive system not suited for cultures that recognize individual moral responsibility.

2. If karma were actually a function or mechanism built into the fabric of the cosmos like the Universal Constant, gravity (or the other three Fundamental Forces of Nature) or time’s unidirectionality, then scientists would have been able to identify it by now.

3. If karma is built into the physical structure of the universe, as it’s claimed, it is essentially an anti-spiritual force like gravity or inertia. Physical things without consciousness can’t lend themselves to spirituality, nor can something lacking consciousness decide what is and what isn’t good. And without a moral sense, how can karma then understand what is justice let alone dispense justice? Further, to dispense justice, karma would have to be in control of the physical and emotional aspect of the entire universe.

4. Karma recognizes only its own standard of morality and justice, but which one is it? Who is at fault: the Muslim terrorist who kills thousands of Iraqi Christians and Yazidi, or the Christians and Yazidi who’ve apparently done something so horrible as to deserve such treatment? It sounds like an explanation that explains nothing.

5. Karma is irreconcilable with Christianity because it is bound up with the doctrine of reincarnation, which is contrary to Christianity (Hebrews 9:27). However, that is not to say that we don't, in some way, suffer for the sins we commit. It’s a circular argument ― one unproven thing supporting yet another unproven thing.

6. If reincarnation is the end result of a lifetime of good or evil, why isn’t that lifetime of wisdom consciously available to the newly reincarnated soul? Punishment without rehabilitation? One would hope for a better from a mechanism that punished and rewards. And, as long as we’re on the subject, Who/what made that soul and for what purpose?

7. It’s truly dismissive and inhuman to say that those people who died of COVID-19 or in the Showa or the Irish and Ukrainian famines or of HIV somehow “deserved to die.” Consider the African father who’s lost his young daughter to Ebola. Would the karmacist be virtuous and compassionate if he were to address the grieving father saying, “Well ... either you or she did something horrible in a previous lifetime.” A Christian, hoping to console the man, would simply sit in silence and share his tears. Perhaps, the Christian might say, “She’s with God now ― the Creator who called her from nothing and now holds her in the comfort of his eternal love.” Which is better? Which is more consoling? Which has the greater chance of being accurate?

8. Karma is devoid of justice. Why should we punish the Muslim terrorist who kills Christians if those Christians had done something so horrific in a previous lifetime as to deserve such treatment? Shouldn’t we blame the Christians for having such an unjust fate befall them? In fact, there is little to motivate any act of virtue or compassion in a karmic system. What use is there in helping the poor and indigent if they “deserve” to be poor and indigent?

9. If karma is in charge of the universe and it can control the minds and hearts of those around us as it dispenses cosmic justice on all sentient beings everywhere and throughout all of time, it would mean there was no such a thing as free will because we all merely tools at the disposal of karma.

10. How does karma understand what is moral and just let alone dispense justice? To dispense justice, karma would have to then be in control of the entire physical and emotional aspect of the entire universe. Thus, a spirituality based on karma is fundamentally not a spirituality. It’s merely a science. And sciences can be demonstrated objectively and tested. Karma is none of these things.

11. Virtue isn’t possible within a karmic system. In such a system, one is “virtuous” because of one’s previous lifetimes experience, not because of God’s grace or perseverance.

12. Though it takes a Catholic priest with two academic degrees and specialized theological, academic and mystagogic training to be able to recognize and interpret what is good and evil, according to the karmacist, every uneducated peasant in Asia has a perfect understanding of karma.

13. Karma teaches, “good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people.” This is nonsense and very judgmental. Those who bully children act unjustly. Children aren’t bullied because they are immoral. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. The sun shines and the rain falls upon the good and wicked alike. (Matthew 5:45)

14. My pet peeve in dealing with the karmically-inclined is their sheer ignorance of Jesus and Christianity. “Jesus believed in karma and taught it!” they’d cry, desperate to win an unwinnable argument. Jesus not only didn’t teach karma but railed against those who believed in it. When a group of Jews who were executed by Pontius Pilate are accused of having been evil, Jesus says, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-5).

15. An impersonal karma is a bit anti-climactic. Human consciousness, morality and free will are inexplicable mysteries of the universe and make human beings exceptional. They point to a Creator who is outside of this materialist plane of existence. But, according to those who believe in karma, they are second rate to some mechanical mechanism built into universe. What created our magnificent and exceptional human selves? Can karma ― something without a soul or will or consciousness ― create a soul, a will or a consciousness? That seems unlikely in the face of it.

16. Karma’s popularity in the West is mere exotic and racist orientalism. Some Westerners refuse to read books on Buddhism but still claim to be Buddhist and “enlightened.” Calling oneself a Buddhist is “hyper-cool” in some strange quarters. It’s like calling yourself a vegan or feminist or transgendered ― it’s très fashionable. It allows the secularist to appear “spiritually superior” without the trouble of actually having to learn, study, pray and wash lepers. There’s nothing easy about spirituality. If there was, the planet would be replete with saints. And, more obviously, countries with large karmacist populations would be amongst the most just, serene and humanitarian countries in the world and that is flatly false.

17. Who are these enlightened, humanitarian saints who believe in karma? I’d like to be introduced to a holy flesh-and-blood creature who believes in karma. If one can’t be produced, karmacists have to stop peddling their karmic wares on an unsuspecting world. Charlatans talk but produce nothing to prove their claims, and only the gullible believe them. They demand allegiance and obedience but become furious when asked probing questions.

18. Karma ignores itself. The Judeo-Christian worldview can explain itself. Karma can’t explain why it is here and how it came about.

19. Christ and his holy Church are sufficient for redemption and salvation. How do we know? Jesus says so. That means there is no reason for Catholics to graft on non-Christian ideas like yoga, karma, reincarnation, vegetarianism, polygamy or female priests onto the Church. If Christ didn’t think it important, who is anyone to say he’s got a better idea than Jesus?

20. Impersonal karma cannot heal, guide, comfort, instruct, enlighten or love anyone. It wouldn’t recognize you even if you introduced yourself. Thus, if someone reports a mystical experience of being healed, guided, comforted, instructed, enlightened or loved, it’s evidence of God ― a personal consciousness that loves us.

How can karma understand us without consciousness? Computers can understand without being imbued with consciousness but the only explanation for computers is a computer designer and builder and karmacists are unwilling to admit that. Thus, the seeker of Truth has two options:

  • God ― a omniscient, omnipotent and omnicapable Being Who is Love (1 John 4:7-21) and desires to bring all beings unto Himself. (John 12:32) The existence of a personal God ensures us mercy as He has a consciousness and Himself as a moral standard. Karma doesn’t. Further, God promises redemption, forgiveness, wholeness, healing, love, understanding, wisdom and virtue. Karma doesn’t offer anything because it lacks consciousness.
  • Uncaring unloving karma ― utterly without consciousness ― which magically knows everything and can control everything in the universe including the will of others.

Still on the fence? Take a clue from the Prophet Joshua: “If you are not willing to serve God, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your ancestors worshiped in Mesopotamia or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are now living. As for my family and me, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15).